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Diversity Coalition Sees Opportunity for Action

by Aaron Wilson, Vineyard Gazette

Galvanized by a worldwide focus on racial inequity, the Martha’s Vineyard Diversity Coalition reached out to community leaders via Zoom Monday afternoon to urge individuals and organizations on the Island to take action to eliminate racism.

“There’s a real opportunity now that we haven’t had before,” said Paul Bracy, an educator and a founder of the group. “People are making a statement that they want to do something different.”

The coalition was formed about a year and a half ago when Mr. Bracy brought together fellow founding members Robert Tankard, Walter Collier, Sandra Pimentel, Ruth deWilde-Major and Rex Jarrell. Their mission, developed over months of discussion, is to create a strong, unified and diverse network of committed Islanders who want to end racism by addressing misunderstandings and other barriers to equal rights. The group now has about 80 members.

“The concept of our group is based on relationships,” said Ms. Pimentel, who moderated the meeting. Plans to hold workshops and work within the school curriculum to were sidelined by the coronavirus, but the group is positioned to be a resource and a connector for people and groups who want to see change, she said.

As protests over police brutality and racial injustice continue throughout the globe following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, leaders of the diversity coalition suggested an Island-wide week to celebrate diversity. They also called on individuals to sign a pledge against racism that Islanders and Island businesses can sign to show solidarity.

“It creates trust. I think it would be an opportunity to see how many people on the Vineyard want to eradicate racism,” said Mr. Bracy said.

At the meeting Monday, about 40 Island educators, businesspeople, police chiefs, elected officials and high school students shared their ideas of what they can do to continue to promote diversity and understanding on the Vineyard.

MJ Bruder Munafo of the Vineyard Playhouse said virtual Monday night specials at the Playhouse will focus on reading plays that deal with racism and fighting institutional racism.

Laurel Redington Whitaker of WMVY, the Island’s local radio station, pledged to continue to do stories focusing on the aims of the coalition during the station’s MV Current radio segment.

Mr. Tankard said he would like to have groups of individuals on his local access television show Tank Talk to discuss their beliefs, what they stand for and how the community can come together to solve the problem of racism.

Tristan Israel, chairman of the Dukes County Commission, said he would like to see more elected officials questioned on their stance against racism and asked what they can do to eradicate it.

“We’re at a different point,” said Mr. Bracy. “ We’ve got a lot of people at the starting line that want to do something. We got to make sure we don’t lose them.”

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